Home Table of Contents

WPI 330.31 Employment Discrimination—Disability Discrimination—Definition of Disability

6A WAPRAC WPI 330.31Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil

6A Wash. Prac., Wash. Pattern Jury Instr. Civ. WPI 330.31 (7th ed.)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
April 2022 Update
Washington State Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions
Part XVI. Employment
Chapter 330. Employment Discrimination
WPI 330.31 Employment Discrimination—Disability Discrimination—Definition of Disability
A disability is a sensory, mental, or physical impairment that:
(1) Is medically recognized or diagnosable; or
(2) Exists as a record or history [; or]
[(3) Is perceived by the employer to exist, whether or not it exists in fact].
[A disability may exist whether it is temporary or permanent, common or uncommon, mitigated or unmitigated, whether or not it limits the ability to work generally or work at a particular job, or whether or not it limits any other activity.]
Use this instruction with either WPI 330.32 (Employment Discrimination—Disability Discrimination—Disparate Treatment—Burden of Proof) or WPI 330.33 (Employment Discrimination—Disability Discrimination—Reasonable Accommodation—Burden of Proof). Use the bracketed final sentence if it will be helpful to the jury. See discussion in the Comment.
If there is a claim brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), use the definition of “disability” in the ADA at 42 U.S.C. § 12102. See discussion in the Comment regardingthe definition of disability under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.
This instruction is derived from RCW 49.60.040(7).
Disability discrimination. RCW 49.60.180 provides that it is an unfair practice for an employer to discriminate in various employment decisions “because of … the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability ….” RCW 49.60.180(1), (2), (3), and (4).
Liability in a disparate treatment case may be based upon the employer's perception that the plaintiff is disabled. Taylor v. Burlington N. R.R. Holdings, Inc., 193 Wn.2d 611, 632, 444 P.3d 606 (2019); Clipse v. Com. Driver Servs., Inc. 189 Wn.App. 776, 794, 358 P.3d 464 (2015); Barnes v. Wash. Natural Gas Co., 22 Wn.App. 576, 591 P.2d 461 (1979).
Conditions do not need to be permanent in order to qualify as disabilities. RCW 49.60.040(7)(b); see Pulcino v. Fed. Express Corp., 141 Wn.2d 629, 643–44, 9 P.3d 797 (2000).
Definition of disability. The definitions of “disability” under state and federal law differ. Compare RCW 49.60.040(7)(a) to (c), with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, 42 U.S.C. § 12102. The ADA defines disability as: “(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment.” In comparison, the definition of “disability” under Washington's Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) is broader and provides additional protections to Washington employees. See Hale v. Wellpinit Sch. Dist. No. 49, 165 Wn.2d 494, 501–02, 198 P.3d 1021 (2009) (acknowledging that the Washington legislature in adopting its definition of “disability” in 2007 specifically intended to employ a broader definition of “disability” and that “the [Washington] Law Against Discrimination affords to state residents protections that are wholly independent of those afforded by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act …”); Taylor, 193 Wn.2d at 632 (same).
For additional information about the statutory definition of “disability” and its application under Washington law, please refer to RCW 49.60.040(7) and the Washington State Human Rights Commission's website at www.hum.wa.gov.
Pregnancy. Claims of pregnancy discrimination are analyzed under a gender discrimination rather than a disability framework. Hegwine v. Longview Fibre Co., 162 Wn.2d 340, 350, 172 P.3d 688 (2007). The Human Rights Commission website (www.hum.wa.gov) has a useful discussion of what may or may not constitute a disability under Washington law.
[Current as of October 2020.]
End of Document